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Parents to Appeal School Funding Ruling

Utica is one of eight upstate school districts suing New York State over school funding. (Joaquin Sosa/Wikimedia Commons)
Utica is one of eight upstate school districts suing New York State over school funding. (Joaquin Sosa/Wikimedia Commons)
September 21, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. - Lawyers for parents suing the state over school funding levels in eight high-needs upstate school districts say they will appeal a ruling dismissing their case.

In what's known as the "Small Cities Lawsuit," the parents claim New York is failing to meet its obligation to provide a "sound, basic education" for all children. Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, said the court, in dismissing the suit, relied on a 2006 report that recommended that 75 percent of increases in state school aid should go to New York City.

"That's simply absurd," he said, "to think that the schools in the entire rest of the state could do as much with one-quarter of the money, even though there's two-thirds of the students."

In 2007, to settle a lawsuit over funding for New York City Schools, the state created a Foundation Aid Formula to increase school funding statewide. However, Easton said, cuts imposed during the recession have left schools barely better off than they were eight years ago.

Easton said the education budget still is almost $4 billion short of the increases the state agreed to when it settled the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit.

"This past year, the Assembly voted to make a plan to provide all of the funding that was owed to the schools," he said, "but both the governor and the Senate majority refused to support that plan."

"Small Cities Lawsuit" now will go to the appellate division of the state Supreme Court. But Easton insisted that children in underfunded districts should not have to wait for the case to work its way through the courts.

"We need the governor and the Legislature to act now," he said, "They don't need a judge to tell them that these schools need to be adequately funded; and we need action sooner than the appeal process is going to take."

The next legislative session begins in January.

More information is online at edlawcenter.org.

Andrea Sears/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NY